Rob (chiroho) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Rob
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Answer: skew v. eschew

Question: verasteine asked about the difference between skew and eschew

Let's take a look with the assistance of our friends at NCIS.

Eschew is easy to understand as it has just one definition: "deliberately avoid using" or "abstain from". So if you choose to eschew something, then you won't be going anywhere near it.
"I thought you said that Tony had given up on practical jokes," McGee whispered.
Abby snorted a soft laugh. "That's about as likely as Gibbs eschewing coffee."
While this is a perfectly correct usage because I don't think anyone can imagine Gibbs abstaining from drinking coffee, you'll probably find that line will send many readers scurrying for their dictionaries because eschew isn't a commonly used word. So make sure that when you do use eschew in your writing, it's used by a character who would definitely know its meaning -- like Abby in this example.

Skew, on the other hand, has adjective, noun, and verb definitions. As an adjective, skew is defined as "neither parallel nor at right angles to a specified or implied line; askew; crooked". In mathematics it means a pair of lines that are "neither parallel nor intersecting", and in statistics a distribution that is "not symmetrical". Here's an example of using skew as an adjective:
Tony viewed the approach to the suspect's house with great concern because the porch didn't just look slightly skewed; it could be better described as having lurched drunkenly against the side of the building and somehow stuck fast.
Note that in this example you could substitute skewed with askew because they have interchangeable meanings.

As a noun, skew is defined as "an oblique angle; a slant", "a bias towards one particular group or subject", and in statistics "the state of not being symmetrical".
It didn't take long for Ziva to realise that the Gibbs style of investigations frequently had a skew towards instinct, not method.
Lastly, the verb definition of skew is to "suddenly change direction or position" and to "twist or turn or cause to do this"; "make biased or distorted in a way that is regarded as inaccurate, unfair, or misleading"; and in statistics to "cause (a distribution) to be asymmetrical".
After racing up the street Tony skewed the car across the driveway as he brought it to a stop, blocking the suspect's escape.
Another example of the verb form is:
"Have you noticed that Gibbs always manages to skew the rules so that they are in his favour?" Ziva said with evident frustration.
So not only are the definitions and usage of eschew and skew very different, the pronunciations are as well -- skew has a hard "k" sound, while in eschew the c is effectively silent, making for a "sh" sound in the middle of the word. How do you remember when to use which? Try thinking that the "k" in skew is a hard sound like the "c" in crooked, which has a similar meaning. As for eschew, if you have to check the dictionary to make sure the word is spelled correctly, perhaps you should avoid it altogether.

And if you eschew my advice on skew, then you'll no doubt be skewered by your reviewers. =D


Sources:
"Skew" (Oxford Dictionaries)
"Eschew" (Oxford Dictionaries)
Tags: !answer, author:chiroho, word choice:similar words
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